Thinking ‘Out Of the Box’ on Public Communications

The NRC is constantly challenging itself to enhance its dialogue with members of the public. A case in point is the webinar NRC’s Region III held this week to inform the public about the results of a special inspection at Palisades, which looked into a leak from a control rod drive mechanism in August.

We recognized that this issue is of high interest to the public and looked for an effective vehicle to talk to the public before the official inspection results are issued in mid-October. In addition, we wanted to provide participation opportunities beyond the plant’s home state of Michigan since the interest in this issue goes far beyond state borders. The regional office chose a webinar to meet our goals even though it’s not been used before to talk about a special inspection at a plant.

About 70 people participated in this hour-long public meeting that consisted of two parts – the presentation from the NRC staff and answering questions from the public.

The webinar was held in addition to three public meetings we conducted this year near the plant after work hours to make it convenient for the community. Even though two of these meetings were not required by the NRC process, we went above and beyond our requirements in response to the public’s concerns about the plant’s performance in 2012. We plan to have another public meeting in November to talk about the most recent plant performance reviews.

We are also going beyond what’s required in terms of communicating publically on issues at Palisades that don’t trigger a public notification threshold. Such was the case with a notification Region III issued on September 25 about an essential service water leak. We issued this public announcement in response to requests during public meetings this year to keep people informed about leaks at the plant that don’t represent an immediate safety concern.

Thinking out of the box on public communication led us to raise the bar on transparency in dealing with Palisades. We started generating summaries of significant phone conversations between NRC and Entergy staff and making them publically available on the NRC’s website. The first such summary is associated with this special inspection and can be viewed at http://adams.nrc.gov/wba/ under MI12243A519.

Our communications initiatives at Palisades reflect the interest of the NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane in better, broader communication with the public and are clear evidence of our commitment to keeping the public informed every step of the way about issues at plants with performance challenges.

Viktoria Mitlyng
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region III